Spotlight On: COCA

As the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the country, COCA is a national leader in innovative arts education that nurtures artistic and creative potential in students through dance, vocal music, theatre, art and design and beyond. COCA pairs these core values with an extraordinary devotion to going green in order to build a stronger, healthier St. Louis community.

A returning participant in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, COCA earned the esteemed title of Challenge Champion for their ongoing commitment to implement environmentally friendly measures into everyday operational practices. During the 2020 Challenge, COCA elected to develop and report on their Champion Innovation Project – Sustainable Features of COCA’s New Ferring Wing – that focuses on clear sustainability goals enforced in the construction of their new space that houses the 450-seat Catherine B. Berges Theater, Staenberg Performance Lab, two new dance studios, Dierbergs Kitchen at COCA and more.

With a commitment to making St. Louis a better place to live, work and play, COCA worked closely with the project design and construction teams to develop a responsible design for a sustainable building of lasting quality to be enjoyed for generations to come. The new building includes several eco-friendly features, such as 100% LED lights, two new high-efficiency Daikin air handling units, three new water bottle filling stations to help reduce the use of disposable cups and plastic bottles, all new restroom faucets equipped with automatic sensors to control water usage, and a new landscape design featuring all native plant life. Moreover, a green roof was incorporated at the juncture between the two wings of the facility to provide additional green space to the property and to support local pollinators.

To further reduce environmental impact, COCA’s new dance studios were designed to take in as much natural light as possible and were equipped with daylight sensors to help reduce energy use during daytime hours. Last but not least, all studios were equipped with A/V and streaming capabilities to allow for at-home arts instruction. Ultimately, this will help reduce the need for transportation and cut down on carbon emissions, which also benefits the region’s air quality!

COCA prioritizes ecological stewardship in their daily procedures and has taken several steps to preserve energy, recycle, reduce waste and ‘go green’ in all possible avenues. By participating in single-stream recycling, COCA strives to maintain a clean, sustainable and environmentally conscious facility. COCA also remains dedicated to purchasing eco-friendly office cleaning supplies and electronics that meet ENERGY STAR specifications for optimal energy efficiency.

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of organizations like COCA that continue to do their share for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their weekly E-Newsletter or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.


Tackling Rising Summer Temps to Help St. Louisans Breathe Easier

Climate change is driving warmer temperatures, making ozone pollution more likely to form and harder to clean up, according to the findings of the latest “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association. Although the three years covered in the latest report (2017-2019) were somewhat cooler than 2016 – which remains the hottest year on record – they still rank among the six hottest years on record globally, showing the strong impact of warmer temperatures on air quality.

With June having seen some of the hottest days in years in the St. Louis region and the prime of summer approaching – where warmer weather and stagnant air create conditions that make ozone more likely to form – the importance of keeping the region’s air clean is at an all-time high. Ozone is created when heat and sunlight react with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from motor vehicles, industrial facilities, gasoline vapors, chemical solvents and dozens of other sources. Ozone gas is a powerful lung irritant that reacts with the delicate lining of the airways once inhaled, causing inflammation and other damage that can impact multiple body systems. When ozone levels are high, many people experience breathing problems such as chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath, often within hours of exposure. Even healthy young adults may experience respiratory symptoms and decreased lung function.

While the “State of the Air” report largely focuses on the health harms linked to increases in ozone and particle pollution, heat itself is another significant risk factor that adds to the climate vulnerability of some of the same populations who face increased risk from air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, as they spend more time playing outside and participating in vigorous activity than the average adult. Among older adults, increased heat and exposure to air pollution increases the risk of premature deaths, resulting in more emergency room visits and hospital admissions, especially for individuals who spend more time outdoors. Heat waves also pose a significant threat for increased risk of illness and death in people living with chronic lung disease.

As one of the top-ranked areas in the nation for ozone and particle pollution, the St. Louis region is no stranger to poor air quality conditions during summertime. However, there are plenty of resources available to help area residents take voluntary steps that can improve the quality of the air we breathe. The Clean Air Partnership releases color-coded, daily air quality forecasts to keep residents informed about ozone pollution levels in the region and how those levels can affect their health. Signing up to receive air quality forecasts via email at helps to ensure residents know what the next day’s air quality is forecast to be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air, particularly on orange or red “ozone action days.” Moreover, actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, telecommuting, avoiding vehicle idling, carpooling and taking transit can also greatly impact the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day.

For more information and a host of additional tips to beat the summer heat to help clear the air and protect human health, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Celebrate Sustainably This Independence Day

While the pandemic resulted in many Fourth of July events in 2020 being canceled or modified, annual celebrations will return in full force this year with in-person fireworks displays, parades and more. Not only is the Fourth of July one of the biggest holidays of the year, but between the single-use plastics and traffic jams, it’s also a day with a major negative impact on the environment.

Commemorating Independence Day in an eco-friendly manner is an ideal way to show your patriotism by taking steps to protect the future of this great nation we call home. With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider for reducing your carbon footprint this weekend to help improve the region’s air quality:

  • Green Your Travels – If you’re traveling over the holiday weekend, be conscious of how many extra items overall you’re packing to help lighten the load. The more weight trains, planes and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use, and the more harmful greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Traveling by bus or train to your destination are the greenest options, but if you must fly, check to see if you can get an affordable, nonstop flight to help clear the air by cutting back on carbon emissions that come from takeoff and landing. If you are traveling by your own personal vehicle, perform routine maintenance steps ahead of time and follow the speed limit to help further reduce emissions and fuel consumption.
  • Opt for a Gas Grill – Breaking out the grill for a Fourth of July cookout is a fun and leisurely way to get outdoors and spend time with friends and family but poses a unique set of environmental challenges. From an air pollution standpoint, natural gas and propane grills burn the cleanest in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter. They also leave behind less waste than charcoal or wood grills. If you must use a charcoal grill, avoid petroleum-based lighter fluids and self-lighting charcoal that release petrochemicals into the atmosphere, and opt for an electric charcoal starter instead.
  • Freedom from Disposable Partyware – When shopping for supplies for your backyard barbeque, look for recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils rather than the kind that end up in the trash. Or, instead of buying tableware for one-time use, opt for your favorite set of dishes for the cookout this year that will save you money in the long run and help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. While you’ll probably still end up with items to recycle afterwards, you can do your part to keep waste at a minimum by putting out labeled bins for recycling and composting food scraps and other biodegradable items, too.
  • Choose Greener Fireworks – According to research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. typically experiences the highest yearly amount of particulate matter air pollution on the Fourth of July due to fireworks. If you plan to host your own backyard show, enjoy a greener display by looking for eco-friendly, nitrogen-rich fireworks that produce less environment-harming smoke, and make sure to clean up all the debris afterwards. Otherwise, take your party to see the local fireworks display rather than shooting off your own.

Take action for cleaner air by throwing a little green into the mix of red, white and blue this Independence Day and continue to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle to help people all across St. Louis breathe easier every day, not just on special occasions. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.